CHRIS McGovern referred yesterday in his blog We need to talk about the boys to the suggestion made by Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of the West Midlands, that keeping boys at school until they are 18 has contributed to rising crime.
Mr Thompson wants to see an investigation, not least into what appear to be wasted years for boys studying for low-quality qualifications with little time spent in class
His claim directly contradicts received educational establishment wisdom – that extending the school-leaving age and continued education reduces crime, as argued here.
But ‘the well-established research finding in the economics of crime literature’ that education lowers criminality is premised on two things – one, that the pupils actually achieve some meaningful skills and two, that time spent in the classroom means time not allocated to crime.
This was at least part of the justification for Labour’s legislation, passed in 2008, which made staying at school compulsory till 18, operative now since 2015.
Mr Thompson is clearly worried however that that neither of these conditions pertains. It’s a theory that also ignores the fact that crime can be perpetrated on school premises via contact and smart phone.
You have only to check the rising rates of unauthorised absence of all schoolchildren – and in particular those in special schools and pupils in years 10 and 11 – to see that he may well have a point.
Is Mr Thompson right? Was the idea of a compulsory 18-year-old leaving age mistaken? Should it be reversed?